First Sandstorm experience in Casablanca Morocco felt like being in an end of the world movie. Currently having a global pandemic and the skies suddenly turned heavy dark orange.
Sands from Sahara desert has reached as far as Casablanca and even further north of Morocco.
October 20, 2020 . Around 3:00 PM in the afternoon at Casablanca I noticed the sky has turned dark with a very orange hue. Thinking that it is only rain clouds coming. However, the temperature was unusually warm even with strong winds. Normally in Casablanca when the sky is gray with strong wind the temperature drops, but not this time. The previous day was colder but today was notably warmer. Towards 4:00 PM the sky looked heavier and more orange, winds started to be stronger and noticed sand-like dusts blowing by the street. The mouth starts to feel dry, throat chalky and eyes itchy. So, this is what a sandstorm feels like. Closed all the windows and doors and looked down at the floor seeing covered in dust.
October 21, 2020. The next day all surface in the apartment feels dusty, my skin feels dusty, my throat feels dusty. My infant’s nose is full of black dirt. My nose is filled with the dame black dirt. I feel the same in my throat – dry and dusty.
The winds in the Sahara desert is blowing strong and the sandstorm has reached as far as Casablanca located at the west coast of the Morocco. Most of Morocco has experienced the sandstorm including Marrakech, Essaouira, Rabat, Ouarzazarte and other cities are all covered in sand from the Sahara desert.
This sandstorm is happening while being locked down in the city with a curfew during a world pandemic. WTF 2020
Travel to Ouazzane, Morocco if you are going to Chefcheouen and you like dried figs, dates and have an authentic Moroccan robe souvenir. Stop by Ouazzane to have a quiet and peaceful time away from the tourist.
Ouazzane is a province north of Morocco. It is near the more popular city of Morocco – Chefcheouen. Ouazzane is a small agricultural and artisan area. The artisans in Ouazzane weave and sew traditional Moroccan clothes that are long dresses with long sleeves. Best souvenir to buy in Ouazzane are dried fruits such as dates and fig which are done in the area and are very cheap. Other places in Morocco buy the cheap dried fruits and traditional clothes in Ouazzane and resell it at a higher price.
The province of Ouazzane is very religious and no alcoholic drinks are allowed. It is a very laid back province. Small streets at the Medina of Ouazzane are colored green giving its own unique charm.
What to buy in Ouazzane
Figs and dates are very cheap to buy in Ouazzane. These delicacies which are expensive in other areas. Ouazzane is the best place to go if you like sweet dried figs and dates.
Traditional Moroccan Clothes
Ouazzane is an artisan place of handwoven fabrics which are handsewn and embroidered into robes and dresses. the dresses and robes are long with long sleeves which can be worn during summer and winter. If you are looking for a souvenir of authentic handwoven and handmade traditional Moroccan clothes, Ouazzane is a good area to visit.
How to go to Ouazzane
Take the ONCF train and go down at Souk Al Abraa station. If you are booking online select the station to Chefchaouen.
There is a connecting (Supratour) bus from the train. You can pay the connecting bus directly from train booking.
Take the bus going to Chefcheouen and go down at Ouazzane.
Another option to go to Ouazzane is by bus. There is the main bus station in Ouazzane that goes to Casablanca and vice-versa. Buses also go to Tangier.
Ouazzane is not a tourist area. There are not many hotel options. Near the plaza area, there are some hotels. The hotels are small and basic, only offering a bedroom and toilet to stay for the night. There provide service, no restaurant, and no amenities in the hotel
There are no annoying freelance tourist guides offering their service
Taxi drivers are honest and fair – not giving a foreign rate
Experience a quiet authentic Moroccan town with no touristy frills
Not many choices for hotels. There are only basic low standard hotels that do not serve breakfast, no room service, no wi-fi, no amenities. Think of basic rooms with bed and toilet for rent per night.
Not much choice for restaurants. There are only local spots to eat Moroccan dishes such as tajine and kebab.
Travelling Asian goes to Game of Thrones film location in Morocco.
Game of Thrones is a medieval fictional series of families from different continents battling for the throne to rule the Seven Kingdoms. One of the Seven Kingdoms is Essos, an area depicted in the series as desert-like, where Daenerys (Dragon Queen) built her army.
Game of Thrones season is ending May, 2019. Fans of the show can still relive their favorite moments at film locations of Game of Thrones. Fans of Game of Thrones have their favorite families or households. Those who are rooting for Daenerys or #TeamTargaryen would be happy to relive their favorite scenes at Essos.
There are several film location for Essos of Game of Thrones. Two of the film locations are in Morocco which are in Ait Ben Haddou and Essouira.
The Game of Thrones film location at Ait Ben Haddou is portrayed as Slaver’s Bay (Bay of Dragon) in the series. This location was used in the episode where Daenerys freed the Unsullied (slave) army.
What to See at Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco
Ait Ben Haddou became a popular tourist destination for fans of Game of Thrones. Other popular films shot at Ait Ben Haddou are Gladiator, Prince of Persia and The Mummy.
Another good reason to visit Ait Ben Haddou is that it is a UNESCO world heritage site representing the traditional earthen habitat of Morocco, built from the 17th century.
The Ksar (fortified village) of Ait Ben Haddou is made of mud and straw. Surrounded by towers and walls at the outer part to protect the homes inside. It used to be a caravan route of nomads travelling from Sahara desert, east Africa. The caravan used to stop at Ait Ben Haddou for rest and trade. At the moment, there are still few families living inside Ait Ben Haddou.
First impression upon seeing Ait Ben Haddou is that it looks like a giant sand castle. Moving closer and inside you would see the intricate designs of the towers and walls.
The structure is huge to fit in a village. The dwellings are small spaces, next to each other.
How to Go to Ait Ben Haddou from Marrakesh
Ait Ben Haddou is located at the province of Ouarzazate. There are a lot of buses going to Ouarzazate from Marrakesh. The most common bus is CTM with more available schedule. I prefer to use Supratour as it has more space and more comfortable. Cost of Supratour bus fare from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate is 80 Moroccan Dirhan (approximately 8 US Dollars). CTM bus fare is usually cheaper.
Approximate travel time from Marrakesh to Ouarzazate is 4 hours. Bus schedules are only during the morning until before noon. The route will traverse the Atlas mountains with an amazing view.
Where to Stay
There are a lot of hotel options at the town center of Ourazazate. I heard there are also some small hotels and riads around Ait Ben Haddou.
I recommend to stay at the town center of Ouarzazate as there are other things to visit such as the Kasbah, film museum and Atlas studio.
Rent a Taxi. If you are staying for a few days at Ourzazate and want to visit interesting places around. You do not need to book a tour. Price of a tour will be double or more. There are several taxis parked near the CTM bus station. Price to rent a taxi for a day to Ait Ben Haddou and Atlas Studio is 300 Moroccan Dirham or approximately 30 US Dollars.
Tour guide is not necessary unless you are keen to know the history of Ait Ben Haddou. One and a half hour is enough to enjoy the place.
Home visit fee. There are still some families living in Ait Ben Haddou. Some will offer to show their home for a fee. If you accidentally go inside and start “exploring” their home, some home visit fee will be expected.
Ethiopia tourist visa application is available online to all countries.
Ethiopia has eased its regulation for tourists entering the country. Online visa application and visa on arrival has been made easier. As Ethiopia is promoting the country’s tourism. It is now easier to go to Ethiopia as a tourist.
Since June 2018 Ethiopia has opened online visa application to all countries.
Countries Eligible for Online Ethiopia Visa Application:
Countries Eligible for Ethiopia Tourist Visa On Arrival:
African Union Countries
All African Union Countries
Djibouti Exempted – Allowed to enter without visa
Kenya Exempted – Allowed to enter without visa
Asia & Pacific
Canada & North America
Online Visa Application
Requirements for Ethiopia Tourist Visa
Recent passport-size photo of the applicant.
Passport of the visa applicant which is valid for at least 6 months from the intended date of entry to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia Tourist Visa Application Fee
Single Entry – 30 days – $ 52 (USD)
Single Entry – 90 days – $ 72 (USD)
CASABLANCA: As of January 2019, the promenade along Hassan II mosque by the beach has been partially opened to public. The promenade-park construction is not fully finished however the public can enjoy the walkway with the view of the sea and Hassan II mosque. Once finished it could be a nice activity area for the family to hang-out. It is not like the Anfa corniche that is a long concrete walkway. The promenade along Hassan II mosque is more green with grass lawns and more plants which is more like a park and activity area. At the moment the playground equipment for children and outdoor gym for adults are already available for use. There are long benches to relax and enjoy the view, and some people are already using the jogging path. Still under construction are (probable) areas for shops, access along the road and the rest of the corniche.
Enjoy the view, take photos
Walkway, bicycle, or jogging path
Benches to hangout
Playground for children
Outdoor gym equipment
(Probable) snack and refreshment shops to open
So how can you enter the promenade if the access to the road is closed?
You can enter by the side of Hassan II mosque.
It looked like a fresh side of Casablanca in contrast to the rest of the concrete filled city. The green grass and plants in front of the sea makes the Hassan II mosque promenade a calming hangout. Public parks and green space in Casablanca that is family friendly is something difficult to find (if not close to none). Hopefully they keep it secured from pickpockets once fully opened to public.